There are many reasons why airlines will fly planes with no passengers. We learned this during the pandemic, when airlines were still going coast to coast, continent to continent, with no one on board. It’s an interesting concept on why airlines fly planes with no passengers, and we took a deep dive when we were researching it during the height of the pandemic.
Take a look at a report from April 2, 2020 on why airlines fly planes with no passengers.
The 2 Reasons Why Airlines Are Still Flying Planes With 0 Passengers
Nobody is flying. Airlines are pulling in a whopping 0 passengers per flight. Every so often, there’s 1 passenger on a flight who will Tweet they are that 1 passenger on their flight.
Even though airfare is the lowest its been in 20 years, there are travel bans and quarantines in place so people don’t risk getting/spreading covid symptoms.
So why are planes still flying with 0 passengers during coronavirus pandemic?
Before I even get there, let me reiterate: YOU SHOULD NOT FLY RIGHT NOW.
Airlines have been assuring passengers its perfectly fine to climb aboard. For instance, Constance von Muehlen, SVP of maintenance and engineering for Alaska Airlines, says “the air in a cabin comes from the top and flows out from your feet. In fact, there’s a large portion of air that comes directly from outside. Within a three-minute period, you get completely new air in the entire cabin.” Von Muehlen is commending the filtration technology on Alaska Airlines’ fleet of planes, and other airlines, like Delta, are touting their deep-cleaning procedures.
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But what no airline in the world has promised is low-risk and/or immunity at airports. No matter what commercial airline you fly, you will have to go through an airport, where you have to interact with TSA, risk being near other passengers, and touch surfaces. You’ll also have to take some sort of transportation to the airport.
So while airlines may have convincing evidence it’s OK to fly right now, airports and public transportation do not. Airlines estimate a loss of revenue of at least $4.3 billion, according to Airports Council International (ACI), due to the coronavirus pandemic — but U.S. airlines are being bailed out from the stimulus package. In fact, roughly $50 billion grants and loans. Don’t feel bad for them. They charge you $30 just to check your bag.
Now, to the big question: Why are airlines still flying planes with 0 passengers during the coronavirus pandemic?
In the simplest answer: they have to. Here’s why.
For one, in order to accept coronavirus aid, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered airlines to maintain flights to all U.S. destinations served before March 1 (unless they are granted an exception). This requirement is in effect through September 30, 2020. This order helps airlines continue air service and not furlough or lose employees during a time there is extremely low demand in travel.
Secondly: airlines have dedicated slots at airports.
These slots are basically the gates you pull into when you land. Airlines *must* land, disembark passengers, refuel and take on new passengers, then take off again, within a regulated time frame in their appointed slot, or they could risk losing the slot.
Due to this very system at every commercial airport around the world, flights operate in a civilized and functional way around the clock, synchronized for connecting flights, working around flight crew timecard, and so forth. If an airline loses the slot, it screws up this global schedule. These slots are incredibly valuable because it guarantees an airline access to a particular airport, and they pay a *lot* of money for slots.
Airlines don’t want to lose their slots. Even if an airline has one passenger on a flight, they’re losing revenue, but it doesn’t hurt as much as losing a slot in the long run.
Airlines must continue to fly, yet passengers should not board during the pandemic.
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